BBC warned Hugh Laurie not to meet real arms dealers to research his new role in The Night Manager

The actor says the production team suggested he did not talk to real-life people about his new part in case it led to legal claims - or possibly something far worse...

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Hugh Laurie says he was politely asked not to research too deeply into his new role as a shady arms dealer in new BBC1 drama The Night Manager in case the production was sued… or worse.

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The actor who plays ruthless businessman Richard Roper in the new BBC1 drama has revealed that he wanted to speak to people who were engaged in similar nefarious practices.

But he was warned this could open the way to potential legal action in case the personalities concerned complained that the part was based on them.

“I did identify a couple of people operating in this world who I really wanted to speak to and meet,” Laurie revealed at the press screening for the six-part drama, which also stars Tom Hiddleston as the hero Jonathan Pine and Olivia Colman as secret service operative Angela Burr.

“I was advised that not only would that possibly make us legally liable but it may get worse than legally given the kind of world these people operate in. These are deeply frightening people and you absolutely don’t want to get on the wrong side of them.”

Asked if he based the character on anyone in real life he said it was a “mosaic of different people” he had encountered or read about “over the years”.

Laurie’s remarks concerned co-star Tom Hollander who plays Roper’s old friend and sidekick Major ‘Corky’ Corkoran in the drama.

Hollander joked at a platform Q and A after the screening of the first episode: “Nobody told me when I was offered the job that we would be getting on the wrong side of arms dealers.

“My own personal safety seems to now be in jeopardy [for a drama] which frankly seems to be present some lovely locations and jolly funny lines. I think we should stop right now! It’s just showbiz.”

The Night Manager is a passion project for Laurie who has longed to adapt it since he read the John Le Carre novel on which it is based 23 years ago.

“It was a daunting prospect because the novel meant so much to me for so long. It’s daunting to have the Faberge egg – you don’t want to drop it.

“I always thought this story was irresistibly romantic and noble and stirring and thrilling and important.” 

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The Night Manager airs on BBC1 later this month